Here’s How Long Before Travel & Parties You Need to Get Your Vaccines, Says Research

Updated: Dec. 07, 2023

If you plan to visit the family over the holidays, a deadline is fast approaching that's even more important than gift delivery dates...

How fast has this fall flown? Thanksgiving feels like yesterday, Thursday, December 7 is the first day of Chanukkah, and now Christmas Eve is just over two weeks away—with Kwanzaa right on its heels.

If gift-buying and luggage-packing deadlines are starting to feel tight, there’s a date looming that’s even closer: For anyone who’s planning to travel or see loved ones for the holidays, the time to get your seasonal vaccines is now

That’s because research has indicated that COVID-19 vaccine antibodies take up to two weeks to effectively build up in the body to combat the virus. If you’ve put off your vaccines against flu, COVID, or RSV, you’re like lots of us who kept imagining we had plenty of time. Now, it’s closing in—especially because a post-Thanksgiving surge in positive tests for all three viruses, and hospitalizations nationwide, highlight that large gatherings and communal transport contribute to the spread of COVID. If you’re living in or visiting specific regions where the virus is surging right now, you could face a higher risk.

Research: Doing This One Thing for 90 Minutes After Your Flu or COVID Vaccine Maximizes Your Immunity

When is it OK to skip the COVID vaccine?

Some people have reported they feel safe skipping the COVID vaccine this year because they recently had the infection and they feel they’re immune now. If you had COVID within the past three months, there is some validity to this reason, but consult with your licensed healthcare provider to determine whether getting a shot within a three-month window of infection might still not be a bad idea.

Additionally, while seeing your healthcare provider or utilizing your local pharmacy for the COVID vaccine, don’t forget to protect yourself against the flu. If you’re concerned about getting these two shots at the same time, don’t worry. A study found that for most people, getting the two shots together was perfectly fine. (One of our editors received both last week and was in and out of the facility in less than five minutes.)

The Covid Booster and Flu Shot: Can You Get Both at Once? Doctors’ Advice for 2023-2024

Who should get the 2023-2024 COVID vaccine?

The CDC recommendations for adequate COVID-19 vaccination coverage vary based on age and previous vaccination status. Here is what it recommends:

  • 5 years and older: One dose of an updated COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, or Novavax). The CDC doesn’t recommend one brand over the others. People who are immunocompromised may need additional doses at the direction of a healthcare provider.
  • Children between 6 months and 4 years old: Multiple doses of COVID-19 vaccines, including at least one dose of updated COVID-19 vaccine.
  • 5 years to 11 years who are unvaccinated or received a COVID-19 vaccine before September 12, 2023: One updated Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
  • 12 years and older who are not vaccinated: One updated Pfizer-BioNTech or updated Moderna COVID-19 vaccine, OR 2 doses of updated Novavax COVID-19 vaccine.

But when in doubt,  isn’t it just better to be protected?